If you are someone who has been following my blogs for some time now, you would know that most of our family trips are on weekends and to random destinations located around the Bangalore outskirts. We leave home with random reasons to drive out and then pick up equally random roads and follow-it till the road reaches a dead-end. We have thus far explored several villages like this. This weekend too was a similar one. And the reason to drive out, you may be curious to know, right?
My dad had long heard of a pig farm located somewhere around Kanakapura road. We had first stopped for lunch at a hotel on Kanakapura road. There, my dad enquired with the hotelier if they knew of any pig-farm around. They informed us that the kitchen waste from their hotel too was collected by someone who runs a pig farm but was unsure of its location. He gave us the possible location of the place with rough directions. After lunch, we headed out in that direction, a deviation before Kaggalipura.
With just the deviation, there was a sudden and a contrasting change in the scenery to drive through as compared to the super congested Kanakapura highway. For a moment I felt as if I were driving through some remote lanes of Coastal Karnataka or the Malnad region. There were stretches of areca and banana plantations on either side creating abundant greenery and change in the ambience. Since there were barely any people on the road, we continued to drive till we found some village ahead. By this time, we had covered a good distance and passed through several types of fruit and vegetable farms.
After reaching the village, we stopped by to enquire a villager on the roadside about the farm, he guided us to a pig-farm located next to his farm. But after reaching there, we realized that it was a different one that my dad had heard of and we had no entry into the place where we had now reached. So, we continued our drive further and reached a junction where we had to pick a direction to turn, the left or the right. Instead, we chose to stop the car in a side and walk up a large wall in front of us that looked like a high-rise wall of a reservoir or something. Indeed, it was a lake up there and surrounded by farms and distant hills of Bannerghatta on the other side. A flock of migratory birds too seemed to be resting in a small islet in the middle of the lake. I checked the location on google maps and I learnt that the place was called as ‘Gulakamale lake’.
The water looked so good and we sat there for some time, enjoying the cool breeze even on a hot and humid afternoon. It was just my family in the entire place until we noticed some local kids who arrived there. They removed their clothes and jumped into the lake one after the other, enjoying their fair share of fun time. They took all of us back to our childhood days and it was a pleasure to watch them enjoy it that way.
After a while, we decided to move further on the road. This time, we chose to take the road to our left and continued at it. We passed through millet farms, taking a round about of the same lake, papaya farms and other vegetable farms before arriving at a village called ‘Nallakkanadoddi’. It was a small settlement with nothing noteworthy to see or do. Hence, we went ahead as we saw that the road was newly laid and in good condition.
The road reached a dead-end and that was the parking lot of ‘Tottikallu falls’ commonly known as TK falls among the urban crowd of Bangalore. This was the second time for me that I had reached the entrance of TK falls, both times an unplanned drive had taken me there. Again, I decided not to go there on both occassions given the large crowd that had come down over the weekend. More so, given the Covid-19 situation and the crazy crowd this time, we didn’t even dare to step out of our car. So, TK falls has to wait until next time. From here, we decided to head back home and not stop anywhere on the way. Thanks to the weekend rush on Kanakapura road, we would need good number of hours to make our way back through the traffic.
With a closed group of family and friends, about 10 of us planned this weekend trek to this lesser known hill, a little away from Bangalore. We started from Bangalore at 05.00.a.m. with an intention to finish the hike back down before the sun goes up. It was dawn by the time we drove towards Kanakapura and reached a village called Kanchanahalli, in Malavalli Taluk of Ramanagara district. The Kaccha road thereafter till the base of the hike, passes through fine landscape and traditional village of ‘Mysore Karnataka’ region. The hill is a part of the ‘Kabbala Forest reserve’ area. The early morning rays added extra charm to the cloud kissed peak of the ‘BheemanaKindi hill’ at the distant end and the fog covered coconut groves and vibrant green farms on either side of the road. What else? Picture this: A dozen peacocks dancing in the middle of the road! Well, a pleasant welcome; I must say 😊
We finally arrived at the base of the hill, parked our cars and started the ascend. It starts at a small godown sort of a structure from where, is a well laid out stone path through the forest, right till the destination. Well, let me clarify that unlike most of the common treks around the city that promise you a breathtaking view after a good climb, this one has a MASSIVE stone arch at the end. With this large arch, goes the legend from Ramayana. ‘Bheema’ hit the large rocky monolith with his ‘Gadhe’ and thus resulted this Natural arch, locally called as ‘Kindi’. The smaller pieces scattered are believed to be the ones which appear to have been arranged one on-top-of the other in the adjoining smaller hillocks by the consecutive civilizations, over a period of time.
The difficulty level of the climb is moderate, but the gradient is steep. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous afternoon, acidity was taking a toll on me. I was feeling nauseous and tired and trailing everyone on this trek. (That’s also the reason I didn’t take many photos of our ascent and the video attached below includes more visuals from the descent). I somehow made it to the top, all worthwhile the effort. A small temple dedicated to Nandi sits in a corner underneath the massive rock arch overlooking the dense forest cover below. Apart from a few squawking peacocks and chirping birds, we thought we were the earliest mammals to arrive there. But not until we saw some freshly laid elephant poop at the peak…!
I had some biscuits and relaxed there for a bit until I felt fine. From a few known localites, we had heard that there exists a perennial pond somewhere close by. We walked behind the boulders that overlooks the millet farms beneath. We climbed up the hill further and we ventured out in pursuit of the pond. Mind you, the trek path ends at the temple and we were venturing out beyond, into the forest (Do not try this adventure). The sloppy path didn’t have a proper trail and we followed each other and stayed together so that we wouldn’t get lost. We walked further, a few broken trees (Bamboo, Indian Gooseberry, hog-plums etc.) perhaps warned us from going further, the pachyderms had just crossed the path. From there, we arrived at a small opening in the green cover- a large boulder. As the mist had engulfed the entire view, we sat there for a while hoping for it to clear out and get some good view of the valley below. But no luck and we decided to walk back.
Our stomachs were grumbling for food by the time we reached back to the base by 10.00.a.m. One of the members in our group had a relative in Kanchanahalli and hence, we were invited for brunch at their house. We drove to their house, passing through my FAVOURITE views of Karnataka: The rural hamlets of ‘Mysore Karnataka’ region. Traditional houses with wide porticos on raised platforms, red-oxide floors, clay tiled roofs supported by wooden pillars are a delight, I tell you!! Sometimes, cattle sheds on one side and a bicycle on the porch too is a common sight, so very typical to this region and so warm and old world. I have always gaped at those tiny streets in awe. So, today was my first opportunity to see the interiors of one such house, all that I had only seen in Kannada movies till date. Picture this: they are locally called ‘Thotti mane’ and the central living room has a central area which opens to the sky. Talk about natural ventilation and lighting, it has been part of our ancestral architecture from time immemorial. It also serves as an area to wash our feet and hands when we enter home, before we touch anything else. (Connect it with self-sanitizing during Covid times, after you come home from outside??)
Well, a pleasant happy day for me and a nice, happy, simple, warm meal for the tummy 😊 We head back to the city…. Hoping for another warm weekend to arrive soon….
This is yet another of my family’s random drive day, thanks to Corona unlock weekends… This time, our random pick was in the direction of Bannerghatta forest. We drove past Jigani marble market towards Ragihalli state forest. We drove around randomly and stopped wherever we thought we had a good vantage point. The place being around the fringes of a national park and in the fertile stretch of countryside, there was lots and lots of greenery all along. We stopped by at the IIM-B new campus plot near Mahanthalingapura from where we got a distant view of the ‘Ragihalli Betta’. (Remember our drive to Gullahatti Kaval? We had the view of the hill from a different direction- Click here to read the complete article) The cloudy and cool weather here made everything perfectly amazing, with a great combination of bright green and dull grey. With permission of a millet farm owner present there, we sat in his farm overlooking the green valley for a while, with some packed food and water.
After resuming our drive and on recommendation of a friend, we deviated from the main road leading to the Ragihalli state forest. It was quite an offbeat surprise for our ageing hatchback, but he performed smoothly compared to any youthful 4×4 SUV. A random deviation got our hatchback into an overflowing stream (with water level almost up to the doors). We didn’t know the way ahead, but our driver(my brother) didn’t switch off in the middle of the stream. Another car in the opposite direction directed us to the correct road from where, it was an unpaved gravel laid forest path for a few more kilometers, before passing through a couple of laidback villages. After the tree laden trail was over, small rocky hillocks appeared to our left and a vast stretch of farmland flanked the valley to our right. Apart from a few villagers transporting their goods on two wheelers, we were the only people in this stretch for most distance. We continued an uphill drive until there appeared a junction with a temple at the top. Watch the video of our drive below:
A milestone at the junction read that it was ‘Koratagere Doddi’. Thanks to the lockdown and social distancing norms, it had been several months since I had been to a temple and I was excited at the sight of it. From the architecture of it, the structure seemed to be a Sun temple. But google says it is a ‘Paanchala Kshetra’ that was closed at that time. However, the place seemed to be beautiful and we decided to park our car and take a stroll. We walked a few yards to our right and believe me when I say, it looked BEAUTIFUL! We were at a flat rocky tabletop cliff from where we could see a good stretch of the city outskirts. We decided to sit there for an hour at least and enjoy the strong breeze that kissed our faces hard. But yeah, the time was cut short by the rain gods who manifested themselves from the distant dark clouds to a sudden pounding of rain.
We had no choice but run to our car for shelter. But wow, what a wonderful setting it was: Green grass, grey sky, hill on one side, valley on the other and a lonely temple ahead of us. We saw no signs of the rain stopping as we waited in our car and decided to continue our drive, back home but in the direction of the road ahead of us. Thanks to the rain, we did nothing specific to stop-by and take note of. But yeah, the Ragihalli Betta now appeared closer and COMPLETELY mist / cloud laden, a view not everyone gets lucky with.
Overall, a wonderful day out with family to a place where I belong: to Nature 😊
As the lockdown is easing out and the Covid positive cases in India are on a rise, many people are opting DIY (Do it Yourself) day trips and hikes over organized group trips. Either with just family members or a closed knit of friends is what seems to be an option for some time more to come. Quite a few of them have been asking me to give them suggestions of where they can go for short drives or hikes. One such suggestion is ‘Kunti Betta’. Although I had done this hike with an organized itinerary by ‘Plan the Unplanned’, one can try this by themselves. However, a hike in daylight is suggested over our pre-dawn adventure.
We started from Bangalore at midnight as we wanted to reach the peak before sunrise. It was still dark, cold and windy when our minibus reached the parking lot of ‘Sri Shankarananda Bharati Vidyapeeth’ school at Kachenahalli village in Mandya district. We climbed a small flight of stairs, walked past a temple pond (we couldn’t see but only were told by our guide) and continued to walk in a single line following each other’s torchlights. While a couple of them tripped over small stones on their path, a few others got their shoes wet by stepping into water puddles in the dark. With torchlight, our guide navigated the path through thick shrubs, tall grasses and large boulders enroute. We reached the peak in a couple of hours.
It was dark when we reached the top and it was unexpectedly cold. I hadn’t gone with enough warmers but that didn’t stop me from sleeping on the cold rock until dawn. I watched the stars in the clear sky and didn’t realise that I had surrendered to the sleep gods. I was awakened by a fellow hiker at dawn. The view of the distant lake and sugarcane farms looked nice from the top. Also, several other rocky hillocks dotted our view. The one we were standing at was named after Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. History has it that the hill was earlier called as the ‘French Rocks’, named by the French army in the pre-independence era. Although it was partially cloudy by the time the dawn broke, we still got lucky to get a glimpse of the sun that morning. After taking enough photos, we started our descent.
Since there are lot of loose rocks, there were possibilities of slip. Only during descent, we got a sense of the terrain and the view which we had missed while climbing up. We soon reached the temple pond at the base beside which there is a large monolithic rock. The localites use this as a giant slide. I too climbed up this rock and the kid in me had fun sliding down from this version of the desi slide.
Our stomachs were grumbling by that time and there was no food around. With permission, we could use the washroom at the school. We then commenced our return to Bangalore with a breakfast stop at ‘Maddur Tiffanys’ for their signature dish- Maddur vadas with Masala dosa and filter coffee. The landscape was beautiful with green sugarcane farms extending on both sides of the countryside roads before we hit the highway.
A word of advice though:
Since there are too many hillocks in a cluster, having a guide would be better to find the right peak.
Since we hiked before dawn, there was also the fear of confronting wild animals like bears and leopards. Although, we didn’t see any, this was told by someone in the group.
Although we did only the early morning hike, you can make it a full day activity. These are a few things you can include in your itinerary:
Since Mandya is the ‘Sugar Bowl’ of Karnataka, you can visit any of the small sugar/jaggery making setups on the farms enroute and savor freshly made jaggery.
A lot of people visit the Tonnur lake (about 10kms away) from Kunti Betta and take a dip there. Alternatively, you can visit Manchinabele dam or Kanva reservoir. We skipped it as we were told that the soil on the banks was marshy at the time we visited.
You can visit Ranganathittu Birds sanctuary and take a ferry ride in the river.
You can also visit ‘Janapada Loka’ to get an overview of the folk-culture from across Karnataka.
Lockdown 5.0. simply put, was just another normal day in Karnataka, except that the educational institutions were still under lockdown. So, unwinding on a weekend after a long work week was normal too. With friends, I chose to hike on a Sunday morning to Madhugiri betta, the second highest monolithic hill in Asia. We started from Bangalore at 04.30.am. hoping to start the hike as soon as the gates were opened. While KSTDC has been abundantly promoting post-Covid tourism in the state, we had a surprise awaiting us at the trek base. Since Madhugiri fort comes under ASI’s protected monuments (controlled by the central government), we were told that trekking wasn’t permitted by the Central government. Hence, we were left with two options. Either return home or find another hill nearby where we could hike.
We chose the latter. So instant suggestions that came from someone in the group was Devarayanadurga and Siddarabetta. Then, we decided to give Devarayanadurga a miss as we all favoured a hike over a flight of stairs. We arrived at the base of Siddarabetta where we noticed a board that said, ‘climbing the hill with footwear was a sin’. Since many people use this path to visit a temple situated halfway, we didn’t want to hurt the local sentiments by wearing our shoes. Thinking that ‘a barefoot hike was definitely going to be an experience’ in our heads, we left our shoes back in our car.
The initial part of the climb, until the Siddeshwara Swamy temple was steep but easy with well laid out steps and iron rods to hold onto. When we reached a small temple kind of a spot, the path split into two. The Siddeshwara Swamy temple was to the left, where too many people seemed to be as if there was no pandemic going on and there exists no concept called ‘Social distancing’. We decided to distance ourselves from the gathering and took the path to the right. With having to pass between too many boulders, it did seem a little confusing initially. The distant passing clouds now seemed as if they had come to meet and greet us. But after walking a little ahead, we reached an area that was a transition from dry rocky mountain to rain soaked green forests. The real challenge of walking barefoot started there, with unassumed ground with gravel and possible thorns from the shrubs.
A little further, we reached an open rocky area where the view in front of us was playing hide and seek with each passing cloud. Apart from the drizzle and gusty winds that made it difficult for us to stand, we were mind-blown by the view we saw each time the clouds cleared out. There exists a small rain fed pond, a couple of meditating chambers that house Shiva Lingas (history unknown) and dilapidated remains of an old fortress. There was nobody else other than us in this entire stretch. We walked further and crossed two more hills before deciding to return, or else we would lose our way back.
It started to rain on our return, and we were quite drenched by the time we made it to the car that was parked just at the base point. The small eateries and stalls were slowly opening by that time which we chose not to visit, in order to avoid any social contacts with anyone else outside the group that we had gone in. We ate a few biscuits as a substitute for breakfast that we had carried from home and decided to stop the car next, only at home. It was a much-needed break and a pleasant little hike.
It is an easy hike and very good for beginners.
Be careful to carry all snacks only in a closed backpack as there are too many monkeys on the way.
You have probably read my earlier post on exploring the offbeat landmarks of Old Bengaluru. Here is another one. This time, it was a culinary trip of Old Bengaluru to a friend who had flown down to this southern metropolis, from the so-called Northern part of India. I had been asked to take him on a gastronomic tour of my city. For someone who has a penchant for everything old school, I thought Old Bengaluru would be perfect to call it a day. ‘From vintage automobiles, architecture, iconic restaurants serving traditional recipes to by lanes and alleys that narrate their own individual story of the city, this section of Bengaluru has everything that would tickle a bone or two of this mad man’, I thought.
Having largely spent my teenage in North Bengaluru and given my familiarity with the area, Malleswaram was my first choice. However, given the convenience of commutation from my current place of stay, I chose to show him around South Bengaluru. But when one says South Bengaluru, it is a world in itself and the geographical area is large to fit all in one day. Hence, I took time to mark a quick map of restaurants to cover, along with giving a peak into the cultural heart of the city. This part of the metro lays in stark contrast to the Bengaluru, that the millennials from Whitefield and Marathahalli know of.
The obvious choice was a walk tour of Basavanagudi and the Pete area. These are the two most important clusters of true Bengaluru that have held onto the roots, despite the rapid and traumatic transition this city has seen in the last decade in the name of urbanization and modernization. Under the canopy of massive native trees, the aroma of the by-two filter kaapis shared at the numerous Shanti Sagar and darshini food joints, the air here feels different from anywhere else. With almost every street dotted with Classical dance and music schools and happy nonagenarian couples whizzing in their Padminis and Ambassadors, it has a different vibe here. One can find some of the traditional old houses and landmark restaurants only in these localities to really experience old Bengaluru. Each of these iconic eateries have a near century old history and their old school ambience is still intact inside the heritage structures that house them. With a small appetite for food and a big quest for exploration, the portions of food were limited only to the signature dishes of each restaurant, to accommodate more places. So, here is my itinerary of a gastronomic tour of Bangalore of yore.
Meet-up point: Basavanagudi is the name of a temple (It translates to ‘Bull- Temple’). Basavanagudi is the name of a locality in South Bangalore, named after the temple. It is an extension of the Pete area, which was specifically created to accommodate the upper class, and more-specifically the Brahmin community. No trip to South Bengaluru is complete without a visit to this landmark temple built by Kempegowda, the founder of Bengaluru. Apart from the Big Bull temple, the Dodda Ganapathi and the Bugle rock (a small watch tower from the Kempegowda era) are a must visit on the same premises. If you time it up well, you can part-take in the annual groundnut fair in the locality. (Read here to know more about the history of the Kadlekai Parishe). After meeting my friend here, we started our gastronomic tour to our first food stop.
Food stop 1 (Breakfast): As synonymous as Dosa is with South India, Vidyarthi Bhavan is with South Bengaluru. Ask anyone for the best Dosa in the city and this place scores on top unanimously. It is a restaurant started initially to cater to the student community of the area which started a new culture of a hangout place for friends in those days. On most days, the queue can extend well up to a kilometer. My friend and I wiped off our plates of their signature Masala dosa for breakfast. (Click here to read further about the history of Vidyarthi Bhavan)
Food stop 2 (Light eats): No foodie who visits Bangalore is satisfied without taking an evening walk on the Eat street at VV-Puram. However, I decided to go here in the morning, in order to avoid the maddening rush. Honey cake and Congress bun at the iconic VB Bakery was what we needed. This is the first Iyengar bakery to be established in Karnataka which has paved a new culture in baking (Read here for more about V.B.Bakery). Avarebele (Val bean) is a favorite ingredient of the Bengalureans, who have a dedicated annual fair to celebrate this pulse (Click here to read further about Avarekai mela). Hence, picking up a packet of avarebele mixture for home from one of the stores there was an obvious choice.
Food stop 3 (11 o clock, coffee): It is an important break time for the employed section of the society. Brahmin’s Coffee bar is a household name for their filter coffee and the delectable chutney served with idly on their very limited menu. This tiny eatery is in a corner of Shankarapuram, which is also famed for the Shankaramatha, a learning center of the advaitha philosophy. We had a quick stopover for a hot cuppa this little place is known for, before heading to Pete. (Read further about Brahmin’s coffee bar here)
Food stop 4 (Lunch): To satiate the hunger pangs, I planned to treat my friend with an authentic Bangalorean affair. With multiple theories surrounding the origin of the military hotel culture, the history of these restaurants dotting across the southern part of Karnataka is unclear. Bangalore is home to some of the best in the state. I don’t think there would be any better meal than ‘Ragi Mudde oota’ savored at a military hotel to get a peek into the local flavor, including the ambience. Hence, we were lunching that afternoon at S.G. Rao’s military hotel, located in the cotton Pete area. A typical military hotel meal includes Kaal soup, Ragi Mudde and Mutton biriyani. (Click here to read further about S.G. Rao’s military hotel)
Food stop 5 (dessert): A meal is complete only with a nice dessert. If there is one sweet meat that is synonymous with Karnataka (Mysore state), it is Mysore pak. Since I couldn’t take my guest to Mysore for that, the closest I could get is at Sri Venkateshwara sweet meat stall located at Bale Pete, a short walk away from cotton Pete. Their Mysore pak and dumroot are the sweets my friend packed for his roommates back in his hometown. (Click here to read about Sri Venkateshwara sweet meat stall).
The Pete walk: An old Bengaluru exploration is nothing without a walk along the narrow snaking lanes of the Pete area, the true business epicenter of both New and Old Bengaluru. This area is segmented into various sections and named according to the commodity sold and the communities that resided there in the yester years. From green groceries, handloom, steel, plastic to precious metal, everything is available in this locality. An early morning walk in the famed flower market is an experience in itself. We limited ourselves to just the mainstream sections while exploring some of the ancient temples, mosques and heritage houses of the Kempegowda era. In the meanwhile, we kept munching on numerous snacks from several popular stalls on our way. Although these eateries are old, the flavors are largely north Indian, owing to the Marwari and Baniya community that reside here in majority.
The heritage structures of the Victoria hospital, Bangalore fort and Tippu Sultan’s summer palace all lay on the side of the road for the history and architecture buffs who have a little more time in hand. But this is all we could fit in our day. Thus, ended a gastronomic tour of South Bengaluru.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour with me too… did you? Or did you not? Share your thoughts with me…
There are many other iconic restaurants in Basavanagudi if you have a larger appetite. These are a few other places that you must check out when you are here: The new modern hotel, Mahalakshmi Tiffin room, Janata Tiffin rooms are a few among many others.
Souvenirs to buy:
Coffee filter and freshly roasted coffee powder: The best filter coffee is available only in South Bengaluru, and hence my friend thought this was a more significant thing to buy from here.
Channapatna wooden toys: These are GI tagged handicrafts made with organic colors and largely popular in the western market, it comprises a large collection of traditional toys.
When you feel things are not going right, life has its own ways to heal its kids, you see? While I was feeling morally weak, an unexpected trip to Gokarna was awaiting my way. This time, I was going to lead a group of people, or at least assist a leader with ‘Plan The Unplanned’. With many firsts of experiences in its kitty, I was looking forward for this weekend trip.
So, after braving the outbound traffic on a Friday evening, the group of 25 of us left Bangalore and alighted at Gokarna the next morning. Blame it on the bus driver or the roads, 11.30.a.m. was late by all standards to reach Gokarna for the team that left GGpalya at 11.00.p.m. on the previous night. Anyway, that’s where the leadership aspects began to be tested. Considering that we were 3+hrs behind schedule and all 25 in the group were first time hikers, controlling the overall time to cover all that was mentioned in the itinerary was crucial.
That said, we checked-in to the campsite where our tents were pitched by the seashore. Without wasting much time, the team freshened up and started the hike quickly after a filling breakfast. A minibus took us to the start point of our hike- the Belekan beach. From there, the actual weekend started to unfold. Since the internet is filled with itineraries for a Gokarna trip, I will not add another one to them. Unlike my usual style of writing long detailed posts, I’d like to keep this short and to the point.
For the experienced trekkers, this was merely a walk along the coastline. But even for them, the small stretches of forests opening to amazing views of the blue sea now and then made the walk worthwhile.
Despite being late, we caught up with the schedule and spent ample time to take a swim in each of the beaches along the trail. Paradise beach for a snack break (fresh tender-coconut water and cut-pineapple with masala are a mandate on any Indian beach), Half-moon beach for a filling lunch (The beachside shacks serve an array of cuisines catering to its large visitors’ base from across the globe), Om beach for chasing the most mesmerizing sunset of the year, Kudle beach for a sumptuous dinner and finally walking along the Gokarna main beach to reach our campsite on a moonlit night… We spotted dolphins from the rock of peace, something that I had been wanting to see for the longest time. And then, I got that long pending hair braid done by a beachside vendor (Click here to read about it in detail). These were the highlights of my beach walk. Until then, I thought my day was GREAT!
But wait, my co-leads took it up a notch higher. It was late into the night by the time the team had settled down in their tents. And I too was settling down to call it a day. By that time, my co-leads asked me to ditch my tent for the night and join them with my sleeping bag on the beach. The beaches of Gokarna are infamously known only next to Goa for having some badass drunken hippies strolling around. I did not want any misadventures on my first assignment as a lead. Although I was a little hesitant to do something wacky, I soon hit the sands with my co-leads and a fellow traveler.
Just in a bit and even before I realized it, I was sleeping under a clear sky, watching the stars. Well… watching a meteor shower! It was that night when the Geminids meteor shower was at its peak. We laid on the beach counting the number of shooting stars. When only one of us saw the meteor, the others would pull her leg telling that she was hallucinating. When all of us saw it together, we would shout in unison scaring away a few drunken people loitering around the beach. They would wonder who was drunk 😀
Eight… Nine… Ten… We counted the number of stars until we fell asleep to the lullaby sound of the waves. When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on the beach and seeing the white lights from the distant ships disappear into the light of the breaking dawn. This beach experience is something that killed it for the mountain girl in me!!! Only because I could strike a similar chord of interests with an awesome pair of co-leads and I can’t thank them enough for the night!
Yeah, managing a large group comes with its own set of challenges. Managing medical emergencies in the middle of the trail, accommodating quick changes in the itineraries and finding alternate destinations when abnormality struck were the unexpected things which I believe we handled with diligence. All said and done, the trip has been a memorable one in more than one way and a thumbs up to my new journey with Plan The Unplanned 😊
Let me get you going directly from where this trek to Kumara parvatha or KP peak is actually supposed to start. We reached Kukke Sri kshetra and checked into the lodge(a meagre 100Rs. Per day) run by the temple trust, freshened up and feasted on some sumptuous Mangalorean food for breakfast. Without wasting much time, we started the much hyped- one of the toughest treks in South India.. to the Kumara parvatha peak in the Pushpagiri wildlife zone.
The original plan was to start from the base by 7.00.a.m and camp at Bhatru mane. Then, leave Bhatru mane by 3.00.a.m the next morning and reach the peak to witness the sunrise, what is supposedly one of the best.
As planned, we entered the trekking trail.. It starts off with thick forest around and steep climbs uphill.. There was NO water sources along the way (We didn’t know that there was a perennial stream, with a small deviation after 2.5km) and a possibility of occasional encounters with elephants. We took frequent stops before taking a longer halt at Bhima’s rock. This stretch of 3km had oozed the fluid out of us..
Once this 3kms stretch was covered, we got our first view of Kukke town.. The thick canopy of forests made way to the grasslands after walking 1km further from there.. It was well past noon and the sun shined at its hottest.. We were running out of water already.. We started to wonder if Bhatru mane really existed and literally pulled ourselves to reach there. Or rather say, we pushed ourselves to walk the small distance that seemed never ending.. Finally… we were overjoyed at the first glimpse of Bhatru mane…
We ran down to his nestle amid a small piece of green land.. I find NO words to express the joy of finding water.. That too, clear and cold water from the stream that ran through his farm.. We had a simple, yet the tastiest lunch served by Bhatru and rested under the shades of his arecanut farm..
We then made a small change in the plan and decided to continue the trek until it was dark. We feared the pace at which we were climbing up and did not want to return late on the following day.. We halted at a view point along the way for some photographs, before reaching the forest checkpost. We continued our hike up after registering our names at the forest office.. We stopped again at yet another view point.. The sun was coming down by the time we reached kal-mantapa and hence we decided to pitch our tent near the stream that ran by..
I don’t remember which sane person in the group chose the place.. I agree that we got a place which became every other trekker’s envy.. The place was for sure, a top rated spot for sunset viewing.. But we girls, who stayed inside the tent know what we went through that night.. The tent was pitched on a slope, on the edge of a rocky cliff which seemed like the place where the earth ended.. It was soon dark and we ate the little food that we had carried and hit the bed (Read hit the rocks)..
The boys comforted themselves in their sleeping bags and threw the poor girls inside the tent.. The entire night went by like this: ‘Our respective backpacks were used as pillows inside our tent. We all would slide down with our bags inside the tent.. again we would push back everything and move up.. Slide down.. Slide up.. Phew..!!’ And a while into midnight.. The intensity of the wind also increased.. The cover of the tent started to fly.. We hoped for it to be 3.00.a.m soon so that we all could start our ascend.. But another surprise was awaiting us.. Madhu heard the cracking sound of the tent support and scared all the girls inside to vacate the tent. We carried our luggage from inside and jumped out of the tent, one by one.. The last girl just came out and the tent crashed down to a flat.. The guys woke up and one of them attempted to slowly remove the pegs.. One peg was removed and then… The tent flew.. away from our reach.. off the cliff.. down the valley.. We had borrowed the tent, on hire.
Everyone woke up and sat wondering why this had to happen. It was still dark at 4.00.a.m. and with the wind that continued to blow ruthlessly, our ascend to the peak seemed impossible.. We stayed back until sunrise 😦 We decided to compromise on one of the main agenda of our trek- Watching the sunrise at KP peak.
After there was dawn,one of the boys dared to go down the cliff. He had a thrilling feat with adventure and managed to bring back the tent that had settled on a boulder in the middle of a water body, down below in the valley.. More than getting excited about finding the tent, we were all celebrating his safe return.. It was around 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent.
Inspite of missing the sunrise, the views post that period were equally spectacular, all along the way. The climb was pretty smooth. It was around 11.00.a.m. by the time we reached the first peak/ false peak- Shesha parvatha.
The view from the base of Shesha Parvatha
After just a few photo moments, we decided to continue our journey.. We descended the steep rock and waded through super cool, thick jungles.. And then, climbed up another steep rock. This rockclimbing with bare hands and legs reminded me of our monkey ancestors.!! A small walk further up took us to the actual end of the earth. Right there, we had conquered our destination- Kumara Parvatha..!!
Shiva temple atop Kumara parvatha
Thanking the diety with a small bow in the temple on the peak, we set our return journey.. Getting down the rocky slope of KP seemed tricky with one of my friends ending up with torn trousers when he decided to sit and slide down on his butt 😉
The descend from Shesha Psrvatha was no easy task either. The loose gravel all along the trail made walking difficult without slipping. It was 4.00.p.m by the time we reached Bhatru mane.. We realised that we had covered only half the distance and had very less time left with sunlight.. We had to complete the remaining distance before it got dark because that was the toughest stretch with thick forests and wild animals. We had a quick lunch at Bhatru mane and got some rest in fast forward mode and started our descend by 5.00.p.m..
We knew we had very less time in hand and a LONG way to go.. We all walked as fast as we could. Our legs had given up already.. I was preparing my mind to stay back in the forest and make a feast of myself to some wild animal at night.. I ran down the slope at times.. My knees seemed like they would part away from my thighs.. We saw the sun coming down.. We continued to walk fast.. We saw the sun going down the horizon.. We paced up.. Suddenly we all halted.. There was pin drop silence.. We realised that some wild animal(mostly elephant) was somewhere around.. It took us a few minutes to feel the sound move away from us.. Then, we resumed our walk. We saw the bright day fade into darkness and every shade in this process. The toughest and the last stretch was almost coming to an end.. We had FINALLY reached the KP gate… And the last ray of light too waned into darkness.. Thus came an end to the KP trek- a mission….. accomplished..!!
We all then freshened up at the same lodge and did a quick visit to the Kukke temple before hitting the roads on our return journey.
NOTE: The above story is written based on my trek back in 2013 when there was no restriction on camping in the entire trail. As on 2019, camping is allowed only around the forest checkpost and Bhatru mane. So, it is wiser to plan the distance, hiking time and camping accordingly.
Must do things/ Highlights of Kumara parvatha trek:
Bhatru mane is the ONLY place you will find food and it is an experience in itself to get your turn in the queue to have your meal served. The same basic rice and sambar is served for all 3 meals and nobody complains. Not tasty, but finding food after a long day is LUXURY here. Bhatru has a fixed time for serving food and very punctual. The crowd is huge especially on weekends and the wait for your meal can take longer if you dont have your own plate.
The sunset from the view point enroute forest checkpost or Kal-Mantapa
To watch the Sunrise from Kumara parvatha is like going to a different world. Try to make it there in time.
The sky is in its clearest form and star gazing at night is a whole different experience. You see so many stars, bright and clear that it feels as if the sky has moved closer to earth. We got lucky as it was also a night of a meteor shower, so we saw many shooting stars.
Drinking water from the stream felt like nectar. So clean and tasty. You can fill your bottles at 4 places along the way. First after 3kms, near the Bhimas rock. Second, at Bhatru mane. Third, at the forest checkpost. Fourth, at a stream just before kal-mantapa.
While considering Ooty to Bangalore distance, the Ooty is one of the favourite haunts for Bangaloreans, along with the people from nearby cities like Mysore, Coimbatore, Chennai etc. Popular for its well-groomed tea estates, the pleasant Ooty weather although the year has earned it the title of ‘Queen of Hills’. We were nine friends in two cars on this monsoon weekend trip to explore Ooty district. But this trip was planned by skipping all the tourist places of Ooty and exploring the lesser known corners of the district. We started from Bangalore on a Friday night at 2.00.a.m. hoping to reach Bandipur by 6.00.a.m. That’s when the forest check-post opens, and we hoped that could spot some wild animals along our way. But, due to frequent pit-stops, we made it to the check-post only by 7.00.a.m. Nevertheless, we spotted a good number of elephants, peafowls, fox, deer, sambars, wild boars etc. With so many sightings, it was quite a good start for a trip, I must say! The itinerary for our weekend is as given below.
Day 0: Leave from Bangalore by night Day 1: Explore Avalanche forest reserve, explore Ooty, stay at Masinagudi Day 2: Trekking and other activities at Masinagudi, Wildlife safari at mudumulai forest or Bandipur range, drive back to Bangalore through Bandipur. (Visit Himavad Gopala Swamy temple, if time permits)
Part 1: Avalanche and Ooty
First in the visit list was the Avalanche, a steep & breathtaking climb of 35 hairpin bends with deep valley covered by thick white snowy clouds on one side led us to Udhagamandalam a.k.a. Ootacamund a.k.a. Ooty. Without wasting much time amidst the maddening crowd of tourists there, we drove down another set of 34 hairpin curves- 25 kms further from Ooty to reach the forest check post of Avalanche. Thick rainforests on either side, bumpy waterlogged potholes and scenic view of the Emerald dam backwaters at every turn, accompanied us all the way till the start point of the eco-tour. Once there, we hired the forest jeep for a 24 kms drive through the Shola forests- A place that was BEAUTIFUL.
On a clear day, one can see the dam from this place. If one is lucky, he could spot a leopard or an elephant on the way, we were told. Since we were there during monsoon, the thick fog made the visibility poor adding onto the adventure of our jeep ride. On this eco-tour, we visited a century old Bhavani temple, innumerous waterfalls and ended at a beautiful spot called as ‘Lakdi spot’. It had a small stream cascading down in full fury and then running through the shola grasslands surrounded all around. After spending some time there and getting all drenched, we realized that we were all wet till the bones and chattering with cold. Thus, decided to head back to our cars at the entrance.
From Avalanche, we commenced our drive towards our next and the main destination of the trip: “Masinagudi. Masinagudi is a part of the Mudumulai forest range, the extension of Bandipur National park (in Karnataka) towards the state of Tamil Nadu. Since Ooty is the only and the last town before heading towards the forest area, we decided to take a short break there. We filled our cars with fuel, withdrew cash from the ATM and bought some Ooty chocolates along with other essentials before heading towards the cottage we had booked for our stay. Our stay was in a private estate adjoining the forest fringes or rather say it was located within the reserve forest itself. It was late evening (already dark) by the time we reached our cottage. (NOTE: The forest check-post closes by 06.p.m)
Part 2: Masinagudi
We parked our cars at the Singara check post, beyond which the roads are drivable only with a 4WD/SUVs to reach the cottages. Two Mahindra Jeeps were arranged by the cottage guys itself. This 3 km ride from the Singara check post to our cottage was a GRAND welcome in itself: Our road was blocked by herds of elephants, bison and deer. These encounters took our excitement to a soaring high…!!
After a quick round of dinner, we all got ready for the highlight of the trip- The night safari: at 00.00 hrs. in the night, who can believe if we say we drove in an open jeep into the heart of the national park in search of a tiger that was feasting on its latest kill..?? Our safari guide and his clients had been lucky to get this rare sighting on the previous night. And once we were there in the middle of the forest, the screeching engines of our jeep halted, lights were switched off. It was a new-moon day. So, there was no moonlight even, only the open sky with the twinkling stars guided us through. The only 2 sounds we could hear were that of the orchestra of the cicadas and the pounding of our anxious hearts. What we all discovered right there, in the middle of nowhere was “ETERNAL BLISS”. Even after a thorough search through the remotest corners of the grassland, we could not find the tiger until 2.00.a.m. Although we spotted a few other animals, we were definitely sad about the fact. But the bumpy ride to the forest and back was an experience in itself that was all worth it!
Next morning, we were greeted by the excellent view of the Blue mountains (Nilgiris hills) through the window glasses. We all jumped up for the guided walk along the stream, lining the boundary of the reserve area. We captured some rare fauna like the Nilgiri langurs, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar giant squirrel, peafowl etc. in our machine-gun-sized cameras. The climb to the tree top house is also worth a mention that gave us a good view of the forest around. It was afternoon already by then and we had to pack up for our return journey towards Bangalore.
Contrary to the normal boring return journeys when all are usually exhausted and silent, all the 9 of us were jumping off our seats every now and then, until we crossed Bandipur: We encountered at least 24 elephants including a herd with a new born, at least 20 peacocks all set to open up their feathers as it had started to drizzle, sounder of wild boars etc.
For someone who finds peace in nature, this was a magical trip! This is that ONE trip that I would love to do all over again and that time, it would be for a longer stay here… in the cradle of mother nature.
The Plan :
—>Finish work by 6.00.p.m
—>Reach home by 7.30.p.m
—>Leave home by 9.00.p.m
—> Reach the railway station by 09.45.p.m
—> Board the Chennai Mail for scheduled departure at 10.40.p.m
* Reached home at 08.30.p.m
* Left home at 09.15.p.m… And then the blog starts….
Half an hour behind plan, I thought I could catch the BMTC that passes through my road at 09.30.p.m. I kept waiting.. At 09.31.p.m, the bus appeared at the end of the road.. I crossed the road to reach the actual bus stop.. Bloody HELL..!! He drove straight rather than taking a right turn and stopping at where I was.. Time was running out and the last bus on that route had zipped past without me.. Now I had to rush to the other end of the village to avail a more frequent bus service..
09.45.p.m and still no signs of any bus or any rickshaws.. One bus seemed to appear then- no lights, no route number, no passengers.. But, it was a BMTC. I just jumped in without thinking too much and I bought a ticket to BEL circle(2 stops ahead)- This is a busy junction on a usual day with buses plying to Majestic every minute.. I landed there at 09.55.p.m. The wide roads looked rather deserted with just 2-3 commuters who also boarded some private transport headed towards Hebbal. There were 2 rickshaws: I proceeded towards one- “500Rs.” he said.(that’s like 3 times the actual fare) Like I had a choice, I was just about to step into the rick and a BMTC showed up at 10.01.p.m (Mark it.. Every minute counted.!!). With the roads seeming empty, in the worst case, my journey shouldn’t take more than 30 mins. I would still have 09 mins to board the train.
10.05.p.m, the bus had already reached Ypr-toll gate. I was happy.. 2 mins ahead, It was Malleshwaram and then- There was a cloud burst- heavy downpour from nowhere.. We all could hear ‘bang-bang’ ‘thud-thud’ noise from the bus roof, windshields- huge hail stones were falling outside.. The driver was almost blinded with the windshield wipers giving away.. He still managed to reach Central at 10.25.p.m. On a normal busy day, It takes about 5-10 mins to wade through the usual traffic congestion at this junction. I still had hopes.. But, thanks to the Metro construction, the road had come to a complete stand still. So the driver took a right turn and a round about route to reach Anand Rao circle.. Again passing through link road, A gutter’s walls had given up and it was a total chaos. Bikers were pushing their 2-wheelers across, 4-wheelers were floating around with water above their seat level. This water was upto our feet inside the mighty BUS.. Inspite of the spate, our driver crossed the street.. Further ahead, approaching Anand Rao circle, the roads were water logged. One had to be totally sloshed or had to just drive based on assumptions.. And then—> THUD..!! the bus came to a thumping hault.. A few passengers in the front seats leaned over their fellow commuters- the front wheels of the bus had gotten into a large pothole(or whatever it was) with no chances of getting out.
It was 10.41.p.m(Lala… my train.??) I took my bag and just got off the bus and began to walk.. Trust me: I did not know which street I was in and had no clue of the way to the station.. And its POURING cats & dogs and I have no umbrella..!! The water on the roads were upto my knees(I could not pull up my trousers further up)… 6 rickshaws appeared all at once- 5 declined to ferry me to the station, while the last one nodded a YES.. I just jumped in, “50 Rs..!!” he said for a basic fare ride. “It’s OK.. just take me ASAP..” I said. Poor fellow rode across with extreme caution and care because I was a lone girl(A rarity in Bengaluru to find such rickshaw-walas). Just as I figured out where I was (Shantala theatre), the auto stopped with a choke. Stranded in the middle of the road, the driver kept cranking the engine again and again.. I asked him if I had to get down, he said “No madam.. it is not safe for you. It will be fine. Please sit inside.” It was a pure scene of water ingress into the engine..
The time was 10.53.p.m. My point of worry now had shifted.. It was not about missing the train.. It was about what my next POA(Plan Of Action) would be..?
* I’ve been home alone for the past 2 months and no one back home to pick me up
* Even if there was some one, they couldn’t reach Majestic cuz the roads were all water logged.
* No bus/ricks were available to home given the road conditions.
* It was not a safe idea even if some rick guy agreed to ferry me at 1000 Rs.
* No way I could reach Shantinagar bus station either, in the given road conditions & the time of the night.
* Travelling in a General bogie to Chennai = IMPOSSIBLE..
—> So, I was prepared to stay over at the station’s waiting room until next morning and then head back home…
10.56.p.m.: Poor guy is still cranking… All in vain. I stuffed a 100 Rs. note into his hand, told him that I was extremely sorry for causing this, thanked him warmly for the biiig favour and I began to run towards the station. I just kept running with no hopes, small hopes, faint hopes of the train waiting for me.. I tripped & then slipped.. And I fell hard on the road.. I picked up and continued to run..
11.00.p.m.– Bang on the clock- I’m on platform no.1 and the Chennai mail is beaming at me… “OH HELL.. YEAH..!!” Including the luggage, I was soaking wet till the last piece of my clothing.
I was fortunate for 3 reasons:
* Not hiring the rick at BEL circle lest be stranded at the open gutter part of the city for the rest of the night
* Not having washed away into some manhole in the water logged roads
* Late departure of the Chennai mail.
11.01.p.m.– The train hooted and thugged past the platform. Once the journey started, all my fellow passengers were getting ready to hit the slumbers.. Forget sleeping, I could not even sit since I could not dry myself up and had cramps all over..But, it was the sheer joy of not having missed the train and making it to my friend’s D-day that made up for it all…